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The Awkward Stage's nostalgic, teen angsty "The Morons Are Winning."

By Jackie Wong, 14 Dec 2006,

The Awkward Stage

The Awkward Stage

By day, 34-year-old Shane Nelken is a cremationist at Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery. By night, with his new band, The Awkward Stage, he thinks about what it was like to get pantsed in gym class.

"The Awkward Stage came to me in the silence that occurred during the third dunk of my head into the junior high toilet," he tells MySpace readers.

The band is a welcome indie pop addition to a long line of televised, filmic, and literary celebrations of prom night dysfunction, untimely boners and sweaty slow dances -- you know, awkward stuff.

The Awkward Stage's debut album, Heaven is for Easy Girls, was released this fall on Mint Records. It was co-produced and engineered by The New Pornographers' drummer Kurt Dahle, and follows the "Vancouver" trail of colourful power pop treaded by artists like A.C. Newman, The Salteens and Sparrow.

Before forming The Awkward Stage, Nelken was a major collaborator on other music projects that weren't his own. His lyrics about blooming late match Nelken's own late arrival at the helm of his own band.

Like most puberties, the album improves drastically by the end. Opening tracks "The Morons are Winning" and "So Stupid, So Smart" fall open like the first pages of a high school yearbook, laying the groundwork for the album's broken-glasses ambitions. But Heaven truly finds its feet, with the offhand buoyancy of "We're Going for a Ride" and the faux majesty of "West Van Girl," a regional response to "Uptown Girl."

The best moment of the album lies outside the car rides and West Van girls with a retreat to loner solitudes with "The Room Tone." It's a comforting alternative for those who might cringe at the thought of grinding to JT's "Sexyback" at the next winter formal. The Awkward Stage urges listeners to dance with the skeletons in their closets instead, casting Timberlake dreams aside for more bittersweet pastures.

Listen to The Awkward Stage on the band's MySpace page.

Related Tyee stories:

Jackie Wong was The Tyee's books and outreach co-ordinator. She helps to co-ordinate Music Pix and is a regular music writer.  [Tyee]

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